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Fig. 1

Deborah Turbeville, Asser Levy Public Bathhouse, New York, for Vogue (New York), 1975, black and white chromogenic print. The Image Centre, Gift of Eric Berthold, 2017 © Deborah Turbeville/MUUS Collection 

Take in the dreamlike images of innovative fashion photographer Deborah Turbeville this winter at The Image Centre 

Jan. 11, 2024

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 11, 2024 

Otherworldly: Deborah Turbeville Photographs features more than 40 works from The Image Centre’s collection—on view for the first time—by the American photographer widely credited with evolving fashion photography into an art form. 

Public opening: January 16, 2024, 7:30–9:30 pm 
Exhibition on view: January 17, 2024–April 6, 2024  

Toronto, Canada — This January, The Image Centre (IMC) at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) presents Otherworldly: Deborah Turbeville Photographs, which explores the innovative career of American photographer Deborah Turbeville (1932–2013), from her major fashion commissions of the 1970s to the more personal projects of her later years. Widely credited with evolving the editorial genre of fashion photography into an art form, Turbeville de-emphasized the clothed figure in her pioneering compositions.  

“The IMC is committed to expanding knowledge about the work of female photographers—many of whom have been under-recognized—and we are thrilled to feature these new additions to the IMC collection,” says Denise Birkhofer, IMC Collections Curator. “This is our first exhibition dedicated specifically to fashion photography, one of the numerous genres of commercial, vernacular, and art photography that we aim to illuminate in our collections and programs.”  

Visitors can expect to see more than 40 photographic works from The Image Centre’s collection—on view for the first time—alongside some of the fashion magazines and book projects in which Turbeville’s images were reproduced. 

Highlights include: 

  • Cutting-edge editorial works spanning the 1970s–1990s, including her Bathhouse series, shot for the May 1975 issue of Vogue, for which she first gained notoriety;
  • Experimental photo essays such as her Rainy Day People series from 1995 with its enigmatic characters and disparate period references;
  • Images featured prominently in her books Wallflower (1978), Unseen Versailles (1981), Newport Remembered (1994), The Voyage of the Virgin Maria Candelaria (1996), and Casa No Name (2009);
  • A collaged contact sheet from a shoot photographing Polish actors on location in Krakow for W magazine (1998), which showcases Turbeville’s penchant for enigmatic storytelling in her magazine editorials;
  • Prints with torn and irregular edges in a variety of tones, such as the intimate portraits of Turbeville’s friend and muse, Maria Luisa Hernandez, taken in Guanajuato, Mexico (1992). 

Developing a distinctive visual style with an unsettling, dreamlike ambience, Turbeville often staged her models in deteriorating settings, and used soft focus, monochromatic tonalities, and unconventional printing papers that evoked the painterly aesthetic of the 19th-century Pictorialist movement. 

Turbeville also relentlessly experimented with photographic processes and techniques. By deliberately tearing or distressing her prints, applying masking tape or other collage elements, and using non-traditional mounting and framing materials, the artist transformed her photographs into unique art objects. 

Originally from Massachusetts, Turbeville moved to New York City at the age of 19, where she was first introduced to the fashion world as an assistant and sample model. After working as an editor for several magazines, she began making her own photographs in 1967. Aside from a now-legendary workshop taught by Richard Avedon that year, Turbeville was largely self-taught. Over the following four decades, Turbeville published cutting-edge editorials in major fashion publications and produced advertising campaigns for many renowned international designers. After 20 years in New York, the photographer relocated to Paris in the late 1970s, later dividing her time between properties in San Miguel de Allende (Mexico), Paris, New York, and St. Petersburg (Russia). 

The exhibition is drawn from The Image Centre’s growing collection of works by the artist, donated between 2017 and 2023 by Turbeville’s long-time friends and professional collaborators Eric Berthold and Paul Sinclaire.

 

Public Program Highlights 

Winter Exhibitions Opening Party
Tuesday, January 16 | 7:30–9:30 pm 

Special Exhibition Tour | Otherworldly: Deborah Turbeville Photographs
Denise Birkhofer, IMC Collections Curator, and Eve Townsend, Director of Toronto Metropolitan University's Fashion Research Collection 
Wednesday, February 21 | 6 pm 

Tanenbaum Lecture | Deborah Turbeville: Beyond Fashion
Nathalie Herschdorfer, Director, Photo Elysée (Lausanne, Switzerland)
Thursday, March 21 | 6 pm

Drop-in Exhibition Tours 
Wednesdays–Fridays: 1:30 pm

All events take place at The Image Centre (33 Gould St., Toronto) unless otherwise noted. Visit theimagecentre.ca/events for more information. 
 

ALSO ON VIEW

Stories from the Picture Press: Black Star Publishing Co. & The Canadian Press 
Featuring more than thirty-five stories about historic events and personalities, this exhibition explores the important role of photo agencies during the heyday of print photojournalism. Drawing from The Image Centre’s famous Black Star press photography collection as well as the archive of Canada’s national news agency, The Canadian Press, the selection spans the twentieth century—from the British movement for women’s right to vote, through the Watts riots in Los Angeles, to the Oka Crisis in Quebec. Each story illuminates a different aspect of how photojournalists have worked to document the news and distribute their photographs for publication. Learn more 

Media Sponsors: The Toronto Star and blogTO

Alexis Cordesse: Talashi
Talashi (Arabic for fragmentation, erosion, disappearance) is a video composition made up of personal photographs entrusted to French artist Alexis Cordesse by refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war, ongoing since 2011. Cordesse’s long, patient process of amassing intimate snapshots of family celebrations and quotidian activities challenges the never-ending flood of tragic and violent images produced and widely disseminated by the mainstream media. Learn more

The artist gratefully acknowledges the support of the Centre national des arts plastiques (France). Public program supported by the Consulate General of France in Toronto and the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration at Toronto Metropolitan University. 

Brittany Newlove: What Should I Say?
In the exhibition What Should I Say?, Brittany Newlove presents a body of work that expresses an existential journey precipitated by the epidemic lockdown, one she continues to explore to the present day. As the period of solitude stretched on, her images reveal the sense of timelessness which set in, and the emerging of a deep sense of inner observation. Using photographs of herself, shadows, and objects in her apartment Newlove’s pictures deeply dissects the relationship with herself. Acutely observing the quality of the changing light in the space around her, the pictures express a consciousness of her body in the passing of time. Learn more 

We would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council and the Government of Ontario for their support. Please join us to celebrate the impact of this funding at the launch of our winter exhibition season on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, 7:30–9:30.  

The Image Centre
33 Gould Street
Toronto, Ontario M5B 1W1
416-979-5164 
theimagecentre.ca
imagecentre.gallery@torontomu.ca
Follow us @imagecentreTO 

About The Image Centre
The Image Centre (IMC) is Canada’s leading institution dedicated to the exhibition, research and collecting of photography. Established in 2012 at Toronto Metropolitan University, in the heart of the city, the IMC welcomes visitors to explore the intersection of photography and culture. Through compelling exhibitions and engaging public programming, the IMC showcases work by emerging, renowned, and anonymous photographers, past and present. With a growing collection of nearly 400,000 photographic objects and an innovative scholarly research program, the IMC is also a vibrant hub for the preservation and study of photography. For more information, visit theimagecentre.ca

About Toronto Metropolitan University
Toronto Metropolitan University, formerly known as Ryerson University, is Canada’s leader in innovative, career-oriented education. Urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the University is home to more than 46,000 students, including 2,900 Master’s and PhD students, 4,000 faculty and staff, and 225,000 alumni worldwide. For more information, visit torontomu.ca.

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Media Contact
Kristen Dobbin, The Image Centre
kristendobbin@torontomu.ca